The Sky’s No Limit for Girls in Yellowknife!

On March 10, 2012 from 10am to 4pm, girls ages 8 to 19 can enjoy a free helicopter ride courtesty of Trinity Helicopters and local Yellowknife sponsors (like Buffalo Airways, Canadian North, etc). In addition to free rides, young women and their families can meet inspiring women in civilian and military aviation, check out static aircraft displays, and enter contests – all as part of Women of Aviation Worldwide week!

For more information and to register for your free ride, please go to or their Facebook page. Please share this with your networks!


Berton House Top Ten

It’s that time of year. The time of year when magazines, tv shows, internet sites, and everyone else make top ten lists. So I will too. About my time up north (although it’s very hard to pick just ten!).

Here they are in no particular order:
1. Working, reading, watching tv, chatting, and napping at Berton House on the sectional snuggled up in the HBC blanket.
2. Experiencing ice fog in minus 40-degree weather in Dawson. Yep, I’m a little strange.
3. Doing the sourtoe cocktail with friends at the Dowtown bar in Dawson.
4. Going curling in Inuvik and hanging out in the curling club post-game. Best place in town on a Friday night!

5. Hiking up Dome Mountain in Dawson in December – and then sliding down on my backside!

6. Finding out I had family in Whitehorse and getting to spend great times with them. Thanks so much, Judy, Bruce, Ben, and Charlie!
7. Hanging out at Bombay Peggy’s and being there for close-down on November 10th!
8. Doing old-timey portraits with the gals in Dawson: Easy-laine, Diamond Tooth Sandy, and Jailbait Jenny. Oh yeah, and I’m Dawson Dani (the one with the gun).

9. Visiting Old Crow and getting to attend a community feast. Such a friendly town and glad I got the chance to go twice!
10. Skagway, AK in September: delicious food, good hiking, and seeing that the Sarah Palin store actually exists!

Northern Beards, Moustaches, and Movember

The Yukon has a long, distinguished history of bearded men. Images of hairy-faced fellas abound from the gold-rush era. There were many good reasons to grow a beard in those days: warmth, protection from the elements, plus it was a good place to stash gold nuggets…

Flash-forward to the 1940s and well-coiffed moustaches were the rage across the Western world. But ‘up here’ men were encouraged to grow a beard to support the “Days of ’98” winter carnival. In the January 10, 1947 edition of the Whitehorse Star the following rules were shared:

1. Beards must appear below the mouth from January 1 to February 23, 1947.
2. Age limit: All men under 50 years of age must grow a beard.
3. All personnel in uniform are exempted due to regulations beyond our control.
4. All ministers are exempt.
5. All individuals handling food products are exempt.
6. Any others desiring exemption must present their case to the committee.

Part of this ‘encouragement’ was a Kangaroo Court – later the Keystone Kops – who went around trying and fining men without the requisite facial hair. Now the “Days of ’98” festival has been replaced by the Sourdough Rendezvous each February in Whitehorse, but a beard-growing contest continues to be popular with the 20,000-odd folk who attend each year (and apparently non-bearded men can still be “fined”).

While it may be well into the negative numbers on the thermometer, many men north of 60 are foregoing their beards this month in support of Movember, a fundraiser and awareness-raiser for prostate cancer. Begun in Australia in 2003 over a few beers (go figure!) the campaign has spread like wildfire across the world and last year over 1 million donors raised $47 million for the cause.

On my recent trip back to Inuvik, NWT I was reunited with several friends – most of whom usually rock a beard or clean-shaven look. Team Meximo could possibly be the most northern Movember team in the world, and it is certainly one of the most colourful. Each decided to embrace a different stereotypical mustache and in this shot they had ‘enhanced’ their Mo’s with mascara to intimidate their curling opponents.

They won their game, and hopefully their efforts will help researchers win the battle against prostate cancer, the type of cancer that affects men the most.

I proudly support the Movember campaign as a Mo Sista and encourage you to as well either by donating, fundraising yourself, or pasting on a moustache for a night of awareness-raising.

And while I can’t enter the Sourdough Rendezvous’s beard competition (despite local rumours after I won a beard trimmer for my cousin at the museum auction), there’s always the lady’s hairy leg contest…

Doing it All in Inuvik

Flying from Old Crow to Inuvik I managed to snag a window seat away from the wing, but it was an overcast day so I wasn’t able to glimpse the scenery below too often. When I did, somewhere over the border between the Yukon and the NWT, it looked pretty unforgiving and I couldn’t help but think of some of the crash stories I’d been hearing during my research.

When I landed at Inuvik airport I felt a bit “bushed” – which people warned me I might feel after 2 months in wintertime Dawson. But after two days in Old Crow? But sure enough, the sight of a luggage carousel in the airport and the hustle and bustle of an airport with multiple flight agents and a restaurant, was a little overwhelming.

Luckily Kyle Kisoun Taylor of Up North Tours came to pick me up (along with his adorable daughter), and they whisked me off to my hotel. Having no idea what to expect at the Nova Inn at the edge of town, I was very impressed with the room and the common area. A word to the wise, though: call them directly for their $99 rate – it’s a minimum of $135 if you book online from what I could see.

Before I left the airport, however, Kyle’s friend Chris appeared looking for someone to sub for a curling game that evening. Kyle, with a daughter in arms and baby at home, had a very good excuse not to. Me, the unsuspecting writer fresh of the plane? No excuse at all, especially when I was informed that this curling team was made up of pilots and that I would be blocked from interviewing unless I played. Blackmail? Maybe. Did I play? Darn right. Anything for my research!

We didn’t win, but we didn’t lose too badly, and by the time I had my ‘loser’s beer’ in hand, I was chatting with folks from Gwich’in Helicopters and Aklak Air. I also got a grand tour of the Inuvik nightlife with my new friends: the Shivers Lounge, the legendary Mad Trapper Pub, and then on to someone’s house. I got home long after the carriage turned into a pumpkin but luckily Inuvik has a thriving taxi service and you can get anywhere in town for only $5!

The next evening my new friends invited me over for the best northern-mexican fusion meal ever: moose burritos with home-made tortillas and salsa. I got to help grind up the moose meat, which the boys had hunted last spring. They’d just bagged another one and so it was time to make some room in the freezer. Glad to help by filling my hollow leg!

After learning I’d never been hunting or driven the Dempster Highway before, I was invited to join in another adventure on Sunday. When we left Inuvik it was about 9am and still twilight but relatively clear.

There were six of us piled into Kylik’s extended cab truck and we pulled a trailer with a skidoo and tobaggan in case they bagged something big. As you can see, we also had a couple of spare tires, spare gas, along with hunting paraphenalia. The Dempster is one of Canada’s most scenic drives, but also one of its most treacherous. Just ask the folks on Ice Road Truckers.

A few hours into the drive, one of the reasons for this was apparent: the speed and ferocity of weather systems moving between mountain passes. We went from clear weather to a few flakes to outright whiteout conditions with 100km/hr gusts. Like the caribou, moose, and other big game, we decided to escape the weather.

A few hours later we were back in the outskirts of Inuvik and the weather was overcast but pretty warm. We decided to stretch our legs at this recreation spot and possibly sight some dinner. No such luck. After a short snowmobile ride and hike up a hill I was presented with my next Inuvik challenge, though: shoot my first gun.

Growing up in the wilds of suburban Ottawa, I’d never had the need or opportunity (or desire, for that matter). I went to the library, the mall, the bowling alley – not the shooting range. Even when I lived in Wyoming I didn’t practice my right to bear arms. But when hanging out in Inuvik you do as the Inuvialuit do, and when someone hands you a 12-gauge shotgun, you shoot it. (For the record, I kind of liked it even though it was very loud, the retort against my cheek hurt, and I could barely lift it. But look at me: I’m rambo-barbie!)

My final morning in town I was treated to a tour of the Gwich’in Helicopters base, which was really neat. A partner of Yellowknife-based Great Slave Helicopters, Gwich’in mostly serves oil and gas interests in the region but is often called for medevac and other operations.

I also got to see some of the town’s most recognizable landmarks, like the igloo church built in 1960.
I didn’t see any dog teams in town, but folks had already started driving their skidoos on the roadsides It was early October. Oh, and -21 with the windchill the morning I left. I can only imagine what it’s like during their roughly 30 days of darkness in December but this Tropicana commercial helps to paint a picture…

This may be a bit of a rough, frontier town, but if you can fall into the right hands you will have no shortage of northern hospitality. A good first bet: call Kylik and tell him I sent you!

© 2011 Danielle Metcalfe-Chenail. All Rights Reserved.